Tag Archives: HPV

Womens Health: Cervical Cancer Awareness

It’s time to get back to some health education! January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month so let’s take some time to learn a little about cervical cancer facts, symptoms, causes and how to prevent it.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer is a disease that allows the cells in your body to grow more than they normally would.

How is the Type of Cancer Determined?

  • The type of cancer is always named according to the body part that it starts in, even if it spreads to other areas.
    • If one has cervical cancer and it spreads to the lungs, she would say, “I was diagnosed with cervical cancer with metastasis (spread) to the lungs.” This person does not actually have lung cancer.

Facts and Stats:

  • All sexually active women are at risk for cervical cancer
  • Most cervical cancers are seen in women over 30 years of age
  • About 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 die from cervical cancer each year.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

  • Many women don’t have symptoms. Those that do experience vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic pain/pressure.

Cause of Cervical Cancer:

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) almost exclusively causes cervical cancer
    • HPV is a virus that is passed from person to person during sexual intercourse.
    • There are many types of HPV, with a handful that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
    • About 70 percent of sexually active individuals will have HPV in their lifetime; however, before it can cause abnormal pap smears or cancer, most women’s immune systems will fight off the virus to clear it from the body, just like a cold.
  • Other things that can increase the risk of cervical cancer
    • Smoking cigarettes
    • Having several sexual partners
    • Having health problems that decrease your immune system’s ability to fight viruses, like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Prevention of Cervical Cancer

  • Start young! Get your children vaccinated with the HPV vaccination
    • The vaccine protects from the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical and vaginal cancers.
      • It can be given to girls and women, ages 9-26
      • It’s best given before becoming sexually active
      • There is great controversy about giving this vaccine as some parents believe that it will lead their children to believe they can become sexually active. I advise that you speak to your children about the topic and discuss your expectations. All in all, if a vaccination can prevent future cancer for your child, why not give it to her?
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit your sexual partners and use condoms
  • Get your normally scheduled pap smears (a cervical swab that tests for cells that can lead to cervical cancer) on time and follow up as recommended if you have an abnormal pap.
    • Many of the cervical cancers that I see are in women who haven’t had a GYN visit in 15-20 years.

Speaking of pap smears, are you a person that dreads your annual exams due to pap smears? No worries! They are no longer recommended every year! Checkout the current guidelines!

  • Starting getting pap smears at age 21, Continue every 3 years, until age 30, then every 5 years with HPV testing or you may continue every 3 years with just a pap smear alone.
  • Stop after having a hysterectomy if it is done for benign reasons (can’t be done for cancer or abnormal pap smears) or at the age of 65 if the last 3 paps were negative.

I hope this information finds you better informed. If I had to provide two take home points they would be: 1. Get your pap smears done on time! 2. Get your children the HPV vaccination! If there were a vaccine that could prevent breast, lung or colon cancer, etc, everyone would jump on it! Let’s work towards moving past our fear of the HPV vaccination and protect our youth from cervical cancer!

Until Next Time,

Dr. Jay